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Published June 26 2013

Forum editorial: Email saga raises a lot of questions

As the deleted email story continues to unfold at North Dakota State University, more questions come up. Credible answers have been elusive, but traditional in-the-trenches reporting – not political blogs or ratings-driven talk radio – eventually will get answers. (And then, of course, bloggers and talkers will ride for a few days on the work of real journalists.)

That irresponsible role of modern media aside, a new wrinkle or two already has changed the story. Instead of sharp focus on NDSU President Dean Bresciani’s allegedly deleted 45,000 emails, attention has shifted to what role, if any, the university system office had in manipulating Bresciani’s email account, which, to the surprise and chagrin of Bresciani and others, the system office can readily do.

Which raises several speculative questions:

That last question in particular needs an answer. Thus far, the legislator who requested the system attorney to investigate the email deletions is hiding behind a tissue-thin lawyer-client veil. What cowardice. What pettiness. What a disservice to North Dakotans who deserve to know the legislator who started this ball rolling. The identity of the lawmaker can go a long way in determining if it’s a stealth vendetta or a legitimate investigation of an open records law violation. Reporters can ask questions.

Evidence-based conclusions demand evidence. Thus far, reporting has generated questions and suspicions, but no smoking gun, no conspiracy, no culpability. There may be none, but a lot more questions need to be asked and answered before accusatory fingers are pointed.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.